The

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Rick Mor­ton

Some­time be­tween North Korea’s 12th and 13th mis­sile test this year, I thought to my­self: why yes, a laven­der plant would do quite nicely on my bal­cony. There is some­thing about a laven­der plant, all pert and pur­ple, that just doesn’t scream nu­clear war, and so I bought one and have tended to it amid es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions.

It is not that I nec­es­sar­ily think the world is head­ing to war, only that it is a no­tion very hard to dis­prove. The laven­der es­pe­cially gets very droopy when it has not been wa­tered in more than a day. It has a limp way of pro­claim­ing: of course you are wor­ried about a geopo­lit­i­cal con­fla­gra­tion, but I am thirsty so come here in­stead.

A re­port in The Wash­ing­ton Post this month caught my at­ten­tion be­cause it cov­ered ground that was prob­a­bly true but lit­tle ex­pressed. “Mil­len­ni­als are fill­ing their homes — and the void in their hearts — with house­plants,” the head­line reads. I re­call yelling out to my mod­est Dra­caena dere­men­sis, all deep green and vo­lu­mi­nous in the cor­ner, that the re­porter had stum­bled on to an es­sen­tial truth.

I was born into gen­er­a­tion Y, but who­ever it is that comes up with names for gen­er­a­tions (I’m as­sum­ing it is some­one who still owns roller­skates) has shifted the bound­aries again and, at 30, I qual­ify as a mil­len­nial.

This hurts, to be hon­est, be­cause I am old enough to have nearly made the mis­take of buy­ing a MiniDisc player dur­ing the 1.2 years they were rel­e­vant. Still, our broad friend­ship group has much in com­mon. We are star­ing down the gaunt­let of an in­creas­ingly ca­su­alised work­force as­sailed from an­other side by au­to­ma­tion, face ris­ing stu­dent debt and have been handed a hous­ing mar­ket that is harder to get into than a Mu­rakami novel. The one thing we are as­sured of pos­sess­ing is a planet that smokes more than an in­ner-city slum­lord.

Per­haps we do live our lives at the precipice of lone­li­ness (I read on the back of a brochure that all of us are sin­gle, vain and spir­i­tual ma­lin­ger­ers) but it is a nec­es­sary con­di­tion of re­silience train­ing for the world we shall in­herit.

If we can’t cure this malaise with in­door plants that, like me, love dap­pled sun­light, then we are down to stack­ing our rented apart­ments with hermit crabs, which is cheaper than in­stalling a hall of mir­rors but has the same ef­fect.

We can­not have dogs, for the most part, be­cause the land­lords won’t al­low them. Cats are fine, I sup­pose, but you’ll re­mem­ber we’ve al­ready spurned love­less re­la­tion­ships. Plants are cheer­ful and airy ad­di­tions to our homes and, if you have even a smidge more ded­i­ca­tion to car­ing for them than I do, they are also alive.

My fi­cus plant has three leaves. It is ob­vi­ously meant to have more but they all fell off dur­ing a pro­longed bout of inat­ten­tion (mine). A bromeliad with a bril­liant red flower spike is prop­erly rooted, in the other sense, and I am left wan­der­ing around, chastis­ing the spec­i­mens that re­main for not get­ting bet­ter. I imag­ine this is how you teach a four-year-old child vi­o­lin.

So while the ex­perts agree plants can make us hap­pier, even health­ier, I am in­creas­ingly wor­ried and ner­vous about mine and whether they are dy­ing purely to spite me. I’d like to cre­ate a herb gar­den, too, but I don’t have the time.

In its ar­ti­cle, the Post cited a trendy New Yorker who spends four hours on week­ends tend­ing his col­lec­tion of house­plants, hang­ing gar­dens and, pre­sum­ably, mas­sive ego.

Four hours! I can’t even spend 20 min­utes on some­thing liv­ing be­fore as­sum­ing it hates me. I come from a long line of gar­den­ers in that old Bri­tish tra­di­tion but my fate was sealed at age four when I lis­tened to my brother.

Our mum had asked us to go and pick some car­rots for din­ner from our enor­mous veg­etable gar­den. I be­came con­vinced by my brother that we had to pick ev­ery sin­gle car­rot. So we did. We re­turned tri­umphantly with a bucket filled with the things and met our fate.

What­ever ex­is­ten­tial angst mil­len­ni­als are pa­per­ing over with their ur­ban jun­gles, I hope it works. I have a col­lec­tion of my own but found dead house­plants have only added to my woes.

Hav­ing said that, I have al­ways wanted a grass tree and if Kim Jong-un lets an­other rocket go, I’m off to Bun­nings.

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